When to Get a Tutor


Although the most important factors for success in tutoring depend on the quality of the tutor and the strength of the rapport they form with your son or daughter, there are also other some factors that you can control, including when the sessions occur, that will make tutoring sessions more effective.

It is easy to schedule your tutoring sessions based on what you already have planned and when they fit in the most conveniently.  This might be in-between activities, on the day that your child doesn’t have anything else after school, or when the rest of the kids are out of the house.

However, the time of day when the tutoring session occurs can also have an impact on how much information your child retains.  Even if it is a little inconvenient, there may be times when it is better to rearrange your schedule a little bit so that tutoring happens at the most optimal time of day for your child.  Here are some research-based tips for determining when that may be.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-LpBJ1UeGMto/UaG6SEpJrUI/AAAAAAAAANo/J_H5XeSg9rk/s1600/Night+Owl.jpgIs Learning Better at Night or In the Morning?

This is a tricky question to consider, because it depends on the individual.  Everyone has a specific time of day when they are the most prone to learning depending on their brain.  I’m sure that everyone one of you has met someone who is not a “morning person.”  Someone who is grumpy and only functioning on a low level in the morning benefits less from learning that time of day than someone who is bright eyed and bushy-tailed. By the same token, people who are night owls tend to do their best work in the later hours of the day.  These are the types who stay up into all hours of the night finishing a paper.  According to research, not everyone is either a “lark,” or a “night owl.”  There are actually some people whose peak hours occur right in the middle of the day.

The key to leveraging this information is to first determine what time of day your child is most alert and receptive to information.  This is usually fairly easy to figure out, and you probably already have a pretty good idea of when this is.  Once you have determined this, you can encourage them to have their tutoring session at that time.

Of course, it’s pretty difficult for your child to get a tutor during the school day, especially because they will already be learning at school.  However, if your child is a morning person, you may want to encourage them to quickly go back over the information that they covered in the previous day’s tutoring session while on the bus or waiting for their teacher to get class started.

The main take-away here is that there isn’t a universal time of day when learning is best; it completely depends on the individual child.

What is The Best Activity to Do Before Tutoring?

This question is pretty easy to answer.  There are two main activities that make a difference in student learning if they are performed right before studying: exercise and sleep.

Research  shows that exercise can have the same level of impact on focus and retention as a low dosage of  a prescription stimulant.  If your child plays a sport, it’s a great idea to schedule their tutoring session right after they get home from practice.  This may seem like you are overloading them, but it can actually help them be more efficient overall.  If they don’t play a sport, you can encourage them to walk the dog or play with their younger siblings for a little while before their session.

If your child had a long and rigorous day at school, they may benefit from taking a short 20-30 minute nap before their session.  Sleep gives the brain a break and allows the hippocampus to be cleared of unwanted information.

What is the Best Activity to do After Learning?

Piggybacking on what I said in the previous section, it’s really important to take breaks in between learning sessions to avoid exhausting the brain.  This should be a break from sensory stimulation.  If possible, have your child sit in a quiet place and close their eyes for a few moments between activities.  Taking a few deep breaths and making an effort to relax can also help.

Studying 10-15 minutes before bed can also increase retention.  Although tutoring sessions are unlikely to occur at this time, students can look back over their notes or quickly review what they accomplished in their tutoring session to really make it stick.

Lastly, the amount of sleep that your child gets influences how much your child remembers long term.  7.5-9 hours of sleep per night is recommended to produce the best results.

How Much Learning Should You Do at Once?

Too much information at once can really exhaust the brain.  Every student has a different level of stamina, but it is beneficial for every student to take breaks in between assignments.  This can also be achieved by alternating the difficulty of assignments (hard-easy-hard) if your child has a busy schedule.  If your child is being tutored in a subject that he or she struggles with, it is best to have him or her do their less challenging assignments before and afterward.

If your child is tutored for more than one hour a week, it is best to distribute the sessions.  People learn better from distributed practice, or information that is spread out in small chunks and revisited regularly, rather than trying to absorb everything at once.